Alibi V.28 No.18 • May 2-8, 2019 

County Matters

Money, Guns and Weeds

BernCo Commission meets to govern

Charlene Pyskoty
District 5 BernCo Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty
Eric Williams Photography

Money, guns and weed control were the super-sexy April agenda items for the Bernalillo County Commission at their last meeting. No, not that kind of weed was involved, but yes, big money was discussed.

More Money Please

It’s going to take $313 million in the general fund to keep County services humming along during fiscal year 2020, according to next year’s budget passed during the April 9 meeting. Some of the perks include: a 3 percent raise for non-union employees; $2.5 million to tear down the old jail at Fifth and Roma Avenue; $500,000 for sheriff’s department dashboard cameras—that Sheriff Manny Gonzales may not accept as he has been opposed to their use; $1.1 million to cover replacing the ultra-toxic weed killer “glyphosate” (brand name Roundup); $250,000 for operations of the Tiny Home Village; and $100,000 for Innovate Albuquerque.

Paper and Paper Products

Public money of a different kind took center stage at the April 23 meeting where the Commission approved more than $20 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds for an expansion at Rose’s Southwest Papers. Rose’s is a minority-owned, family-owned business that produces high quality paper products such as toilet paper, napkins and paper towels. It is located on south Second Street and employs about 225 people, with plans to hire another couple dozen in the expansion.

It’s About Guns

“We refuse to give up our guns,” said one speaker during the April 9 administrative meeting of the Bernalillo County Commission—which made no sense since no one suggested she give up her guns. The “guns for everyone” speakers asked the Commission to push the idea of Bernalillo County becoming a so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary county” like several of the rural counties in New Mexico did when they jumped on the “guns for all” rhetorical bandwagon, apparently without actually reading about the extension of background checks approved by NM lawmakers.

Sanctuary advocates have been asking the Commission to go against its bipartisan and sensible support of statewide universal background checks meant to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. The Albuquerque Police Department, by far the state’s largest police department and often regarded as the best trained—for sure the blues that bear the brunt of the flood of guns on the streets—supported the sensible gun legislation requiring background checks for people like convicted domestic violence offenders or the mentally ill.

Several other speakers said they were part of another local spinoff group called Gun Rights Are Women’s Rights also spoke about infringement of their inalienable right to own guns. A couple other speakers said they “were not going to take it” and made veiled almost-threats that referenced the statewide universal gun background checks passed by legislation representing the will of the voters, and signed by the Governor, set to go into effect on July 1. Lawlessness is never the answer, of course. There were not as many “give guns to all” speakers at the April 23 meeting, which is good, and maybe in part a result of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham meeting with a few of the state’s sheriffs.

It appears they agreed to work together on any future gun legislation, and on ways to implement the background check law—which is what elected sheriffs should do when charged with protecting citizens as much as possible from senseless gun violence.

The new statewide legislation does not say anything about keeping or taking guns away from people who can legally have them. There is plainly no impact on the federal Second Amendment if a state requires sensible background checks to stem gun proliferation. Too many people, including cops, have been killed by mentally ill persons with guns.

With a few days left in the month of April, the Albuquerque Journal reported that there had been at least 114 shootings in 112 days in Bernalillo County, of which Albuquerque is the epicenter. The diversity of the victims of these recent gun shootings include a murder by an emotionally upset teenager of a beloved mail carrier on his route, a suicide of a 76-year-old, and a random shooting that killed an 8-year old in her home. New Mexico ranks tenth in firearm-related deaths, another statistic we can help try to change with sensible gun laws. It’s an incremental step in the right direction.

More Bees, Less Weeds

Over the next year, Bernalillo County workers will transition away from using the herbicide glyphosate, which is ultra-toxic to children and other living things, bees included. And the Commission put its money where its spray nozzle is, by passing a budget that includes $1.1 million to implement the use of less lethal chemicals and the use of more manual labor to keep county properties spiffy and as weed free as possible.

The county uses about $13,000 a year worth of the cancer-causing chemical in and around its roughly 123 properties, on about 2,209 acres, including Rio Grande Bosque trails. Some county folks on the front lines of the weed war said more native plants will have to be used and that will make parks and other properties “look weedy” and more like the mesa.

But there are a number of other safer alternatives to glyphosate, not to mention giving those that want to work the option of an old-fashioned weed-whacking job.

Upcoming Bernalillo County Commission Administrative Meetings
Tuesday, May 14 and Tuesday, May 28 • 5pm
Vincent E. Griego Chambers
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Center
1 Civic Plaza